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8th wonder

two posts today; one below about mlb's wretched deal with DirecTV, and this one about relief pitchers. i separated the posts because i thought both subjects worthy of discussion, but they're too disparate to include in a single post. if you want to talk about the new TV deal, scroll down to the thread below this one and whale away at the bastards. if you're thinking about who will pitch the 8th inning for the cards in close ballgames this season, stay right here. (and/or vote in the poll.)

kinney's toast; you know that by now. not an insignificant loss, but let's not get carried away. josh didn't become the prime rh setup man until october; as late as september 28 (the 159th game of the regular season ) he was mopping up in a 9-4 loss. they have other pitchers with similar skills; that's not to say they won't miss kinney --- bullpen depth rocks, and the cards' just took a hit --- but i do think they can fill this hole without losing much (if anything) in terms of performance.

at Birdland yesterday, derrick goold ran down three candidates to take over for kinney. he doesn't say much about springer, beyond the fact that russ is not likely to pitch for at least a week (an ominous sign); nor does goold list braden looper, a guy who was signed specifically as a setup man and has made hundreds of late-inning appearances in his career. given the sudden hole in the bullpen and the presence of several experienced starting pitchers in camp --- franklin, narveson, keisler --- the looper rotation experiment seems more illogical than ever.

it's not that i'm such a big fan of looper as a reliever; he's got pretty limited skills at this point. but he wasn't disastrous last year; far from it. if i were in charge (hah!) i'd return looper to his usual role as a late-inning guy, running the anchor leg in a matchup-driven 7th/8th-inning relay. thompson, flores, ty johnson, and looper would pass the baton to one another, with springer (if he's healthy) and hancock and falkenborg and jimenez and whoever else getting into the act as needed. jimenez has been getting a serious look since camp opened and making an impression; he has faced 10 hitters so far, struck out 3, walked nobody, and allowed just 1 hit. the fact that he got the call in a save situation yesterday (and converted the opportunity with a perfect inning) is not insignificant. as matt leach likes to say, nothing happens by accident in a la russa-run camp.

i wrote about jimenez a week ago, toward the bottom of this post; did a little more homework on him last night. among other things, i sought an opinion from adam morris, who blogs the texas rangers (jimenez's old organization) for SBN at Lone Star Ball:

Jimenez is an interesting guy, a live arm who has potential to be a pretty good reliever but has never really gotten it together. Coming into 2006, Jamey Newberg of the Newberg Report (pretty much the top guru on the Ranger minor league system) had him ranked as the #21 prospect in what was a fairly deep (if not top-heavy) system. He was a candidate to get added to the 40 man roster in the 2005-06 offseason, and was viewed as someone who could end up getting selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Really disappointing 2006 season, though, at AAA, particularly since he had looked pretty good there the year before, and given the amount of young arms the Rangers already had fighting for slots in the pen this spring, they were willing to let him leave as a minor league free agent rather than add him to the 40 man.

He's someone who I could see sticking around as a middle reliever, particularly with someone like Dave Duncan working with him to help him harness a pretty solid fastball/slider combo.

the other bit of sleuthing i did was to parse each of jimenez's three appearances so far this spring. (i'm not counting kj's two-inning stint vs florida atlantic university.) as i suspected, jimenez has mostly pitched to guys who are wearing numbers like 74 on their jerseys --- training-camp scrubs:

march 2 vs mets, 8th inn:
1st hitter: mike carp, 829 ops at class A last year --- lined out to short
2d hitter: chip ambres; batted .203 at triple A last season --- struck out looking
3d hitter: ex-cardinal catcher mike difelice; hit .272 at double A as a backup catcher, .080 in 25 at-bats for the mets --- grounded out to pitcher

march 5 vs astros, 9th inn:
1st hitter: eric munson; hit .199 for the astros last year, .211 career hitter --- lined out to second
2d hitter: mike rodriguez (no info available) --- grounded out to first
3d hitter: hunter pence; astros' #1 prospect, posted 890 ops at double A last year --- doubled to left
4th hitter: jason lane; .201 / .318 / .392 for houston last season ---- lined out to left

march 8 vs twins, 9th inn:
1st hitter: eli tintor; 749 ops at class A last season --- struck out
2d hitter: steve tolleson; 761 ops at class A --- struck out
3d hitter: glenn williams; 715 ops at triple A --- F8

the stats look great, but the at-bat-by-at-bat view isn't nearly as impressive; 4 of 10 batters hit the ball pretty hard, and the guys who didn't were mostly extremely young, inexperienced players. i think jimenez deserves a chance to show what he can do against stiffer competition, but these 10 at-bats don't prove much. as if 10 at-bats can ever prove anything . . . .

anthony reyes and brad thompson pitch today against the marlins, same team he faced last time; here's the gameday link.